Nebraska Predicto: The Real Blackshirts Edition
In the 1960s, when many college football players played both ways (like bdowd during his experimental phase), a cheapskate member of the Nebraska coaching staff went to buy some pennys during a road trip for the defensive players to put on. The sporting goods store had a lot of black ones, so they made him a deal. The Husker defense was strong at the time and continued to be such, leading to the "Black Shirts" taking on their legendary (in Lincoln, anyway) status.
In all seriousness, though, the black shirt was something of an honor. Different coaches handled them different ways, with some handing them out before and after practice, others giving out only 11, and others not awarding them until bowl season. Bo Pelini did not hand them out immediately and said they were earned on the field.
Regardless, the point is, Nebraksa became known for a stingy, well-coaches defense (Monte Kiffin spent time there in the '70s) and a plodding, ball-control, rarely-passing, option-oriented offense.
Both of those things have changed in recent years, particularly under Pelini. Nebraska still wins a lot of games, but now they look like a run-and-shoot team from the '80s. Massive offensive outputs, but with that a completely suspect defense that is statisitcally more generous than Purdue's, for example. For that reason, we've had some fun in recent weeks touting the Boilermakers as "the real blackshirts" on twitter (#therealblackshirts), especially since Purdue gets to wear black jerseys for real during games.
Once the game begins tomorrow, though, will the taunting end? Or will the Boilers begin to turn their season around? Let's ask the experts. Or, these guys below, anyway.
The BS Predicto rankings have been a little too easy, it appears, so next year we may mix in point spreads or something to make it more challenging.
J: 4-1 (but really handsome)
Last game I asked to see some consistency. I got an unwelcome share of consistency. Purdue was consistently terrible. For the fourth time in 5 games. The lone bright spot is that the future is now. The Etling era has begun (which is rather unfortunate for Austin Appleby btw). If he can stop trying to throw the ball through his receivers then I think he'll be fine. He's a true freshman though, so let's not think it's the second coming of Drew Brees just yet. The offense did put up 500+ yards of offense two weeks ago but scored only 24 points.
This is just the second ever meeting with the Cornholes, with the completely relevant previous meeting coming in a 1958 Purdue victory, so we've got that going for us. Nebraska is favored by 14 in this game and I actually do think Purdue has a reasonable chance to win. I also think Purdue has a reasonable chance of losing by 25. I guess we'll see which team shows up, but if this season has shown me anything it's that I will definitely need to see good things happen before I'll believe they will happen.
Nebraska - 41 Purdue - 20
Good news! Taylor Martinez probably won't start against Purdue! That means that we're unlikely to see a player rack up 500 yards in total offense on Saturday, and before you question that, remember the slight problem Purdue has shown with mobile QBs., then go look up Martinez' rushing stats. (Actually, don't. Just in case he is healthy.) But all that means is that the Boilers will face a healthy, mobile QB in Tommy Armstrong Jr., a redshirt freshman who's proved himself capable of dissecting lesser defenses.
The other good news is that Nebraska's defense is bad, and I don't mean bad as in NIU-smoking-the-Boilers bad, but BAD as in scoreboard-operators-running-for-their-lives bad. On a scale of illinois to MICHIGAN STATE, Nebraska is just a touch better than the Illini's "defense". They're pretty good on passing downs (2nd and 8+, 3rd or 4th and 5+) and third-worst in the country on standard downs, which means the key to scoring on Nebraska is to not beat yourselves. Just go out there and move the ball.
This would not be a problem if Purdue had a stable offense and an experienced QB. Actually, it may not be a problem anyway, because Nebraska has given up over 180 yards rushing per game, and that includes a game where they held Southern Miss to 62 yards ... and it's not from opposing teams running out the clock, because the Cornhuskers are 4-1. It's from the defense being bad. 602 yards of total offense for Wyoming. 504 for UCLA in Nebraska's one loss. 465 for South Dakota State.
The problem will be on the other side of the ball. Nebraska is averaging just over 500 yards per game. Purdue has faced some pretty good offenses this season - all of them, actually, except Cincinnati, which only looked good against the Boilers, and Indiana State, a I-AA team - but the Huskers are better than all of them. Greg Hudson's crew will have their work cut out for them, backup QB or not.
I think they'll do a decent job, and Danny Etling will be decent, and Nebraska will help him out, but there are too many problems for a single bye week to fix, and Nebraska's defensive issues won't help Purdue keep up with their top-10 offense.
Nebraska 14 17 14 7 - 52
Purdue 7 7 10 10 - 34
Nebraska comes into Purdue this weekend leaving the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium (3) for the first time this season. After the great homecoming performance against NIU, the Boilermakers are looking to bounce back with Etling at the realm. It will be interesting to see how he can handle his first start in the B1G.
Nebraska is a powerhouse of a football program that is down this season, but even this season they are decent. Losing their QB to injury hasn't helped the cause, but we might get a chance to see him this week, unfortunately.
As far as the game will go, I just don't know about this team. Could this be a game that the Boilermakers win? Yes. Will they? Probably not. At this point in the season the Boilermakers are just trying to steal some wins and gain some momentum going into next season.
Purdue 24 Nebraska 42
Man, I have a funny feeling about this game. All the empirical evidence we have that Purdue is terrible this year isn't faulty -- however, I do think there is an element of "fresh start" to this week. Danny Etling as the starter with two weeks of practice plus the game action versus NIU should not be underestimated. Also, one has to assume that John Shoop has made some alterations to his offensive complexity to make things just a bit more straightforward for Etling (and hopefully tailored more to Danny's game). If Shoop hasn't made adjustments -- evident adjustments -- then I think you'll find me quickly joining the anti-Shoop bandwagon (if there's any room left).
The fact is, of course, that Nebraska is a good team. They're not a terrific team, but a good team. And given Purdue's performance this year, good teams are plenty good enough to hammer the Boilers. However, if you had to pick a kind of game for your talented freshman QB to get his first start against, wouldn't you ask for a poor defensive team, a home game, and two weeks to prepare? I sure would.
As long as the Boilers aren't overwhelmed by the idea that they're playing "Nebraska" (and, let's be honest -- they shouldn't; South Dakota State wasn't even scared), I think this could be a really fun game. There's nothing to lose, as the saying goes, since many Boiler fans have given up on a bowl or .500 season in 2013 and are simply hoping this team takes some educational lumps that will reap benefits in 2014. So maybe some magic happens?
I kept saying this week that I really wanted to pick the Boilers to win. So why the hell not?
Purdue 35, Nebraska 31
Just two Saturdays ago, we were promised Purdue would be playing a lousy defense...so the offense would be able to get on track.
The end result was the starting QB lost his job and productivity was less than stellar. Nebraska, like NIU is not a good defense...but they can score, and like Wisconsin, they'll do it by exerting their will. The real problem these Boilers have at this point is everything. I've heard it said that they have no identity; that's really not true. They have an identity, it's just a really bad one.
They give up big plays, they give up sustained drives. They can't run the ball and they can't really pass it consistently either. The newest wrinkle that we saw versus the Huskies was now the Special Teams are giving up big plays.
The dam isn't leaking, it completely ruptured two weeks ago...so clearly, Hazell is no trying to rebuild.
Captains like Henry and Gaston are playing new positions. The pro set offense is being replaced with a bit of a spread and it's rumored that the defense will shift to a three man front. I for one and happy that as this team is flailing, it's at least trying to take some swings.
If you watched BTN's "The Journey" this week, you saw Hazell talk to his Boilers after the ass-kicking by the Badgers. I loved watching this. Along with Emma's story that Hazell's not happy, we know that losing, and losing the way this team is doing it, is killing him. His PR face isn't what BTN showed in the bowels of Camp Randall...I think that's the right way to be. Stay positive in public, and unleash painful truths in the locker room.
This talk might push some players off of the ledge...especially those that had been playing for Mr. Happy the last four seasons...and you know what? That's OK. If they can't handle that those results are OK, it's time to move forward.
Purdue will move forward...just not this week.
Nebraska 35 Purdue 17